Top Ten Tuesday: Funny Book Titles

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 23: Funny Book Titles

  1. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss- Because saying a panda “eats shoots and leaves” is very different from saying he “eats, shoots and leaves” Commas can save lives! I actually used to use the kids edition of this book with my class, and they always got a kick out of it.

2. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: The Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England by Daniel Pool– I used this in college when I wrote a pseudo-Victorian novel for my senior project. It’s actually really good about explaining the minutia of daily life at the time: little things that you don’t often think about. That’s why the title makes me laugh too. I don’t often think about Jane Austen eating (but I know she must’ve done so!)

3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith -I always think of this one in the same breathe as the the equally funny titled IMO, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I suppose the titles strike me as funny because I think of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility as being about very proper, mannered, British gentry. Throwing zombies and sea monsters makes it bizarre and funny.

4. The Ear, The Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer– I actually really like this book and think it deserves to be better known. But the first time it was recommended to me, I heard the title and thought “WTF?” It’s takes place in Zimbabwe in the year 2174. It’s about three kids who escape their parents heavily guarded home to explore the dangerous world outside. They’re pursued by the detectives their parents have hired to find them: the ear, the eye and the arm. I always get a mental picture of an ear, an eye, and an arm, all walking around on little legs when I hear it!

5. Going Bovine by Libba Bray– I think the title is meant to sound like “going nuts” or “going crazy.” But it’s about a kid who gets mad cow disease, so he’s “going bovine” instead. It’s a totally wild book, that’s like a mash up of Don Quixote, Norse mythology, and The Phantom Tollbooth. I think the title suits it.

6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night- Time by Mark Haddon– I like this title because it sounds like the title of a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The main character of this book is an autistic teen who sets out to solve the mystery of the death of his neighbor’s dog, as Sherlock Holmes would. So I think for that reason the title is witty. Not “ha-ha” funny really, but witty.

7. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– She’s not though. And I think the title sort of lets us know she’s not, right off. It sounds sort of defensive. When I first looked at the cover, and saw the woman with her arms crossed protectively in front of her, I thought: “Methinks she doth protest too much.” And I was right. Again, it’s not really LOL funny, but it strikes me as having a sense of humor about itself. Also the name “Eleanor Oliphant” makes me chuckle a bit, because if you mashed together the beginning of the first name and the end of the last name. it turns into “elephant.”

8. The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis– This is the third Narnia book and I always smile a bit when I see/hear the title. I think it’s the inversion of the expected “The Boy and His Horse” that does it. We naturally expect the emphasis to be on the boy rather than the horse.

9. To Say Nothing of the Dog: Or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last by Connie Willis Firstly, this title strikes me as funny simply because it’s a mouthful! It’s also a reference to the subtitle of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. Plus, the subtitle about the Bishop’s Bird Stump sounds funny too.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me LOL

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 23: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza)

I did a list like this a while back, but I know we all need a laugh sometimes, so I figured I’d take on the challenge and make another! All different books of course!

  1. One For the Money by Janet Evonovich- There are now 28 Stephanie Plum books. I’ve only read the first ten or so, and I’d say that the first 5-6 really made me laugh. When we meet Stephanie in this book, she’s unemployed and broke. She gets her cousin to give her a job as an apprehension agent (aka bounty hunter). Of course Stephanie knows nothing about apprehending criminals, but she can learn! When she learns that her first case involves finding Joe Morelli, a vice cop accused of murder, who also happens to be her ex, things get even more interesting. Truthfully, much of the time, Stephanie is a little inept as a bounty hunter. That’s what makes it funny. For the first few books in the series. I felt like it all went on a little too long after a while.

2. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen- I’ve read the first three books in Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, and while they’re not deep and meaningful, they’re good for a chuckle and a lot of fun. It’s set in 1932. Georgina is 34th in line for the throne. In other words, she’s distant enough so that she has no money, but close enough so that the queen will ask the occasional favor. When she gets home from her latest attempt to make some money, she discovers a dead body in the bathtub and her brother accused of the murder. Apparently getting away with murder is not one of the advantages of a royal bloodline… Georgie knows that her brother is innocent: he’s not smart enough to plan and pull off a murder. Unfortunately the police don’t consider this argument a valid defense. So Georgie is on the case!
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3. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella- Most of the time, Sophie Kinsella is good for a quick read with a few laughs. I think most of her books could go on this list, but I chose this one because I remember the mental image of one of the scenes made me laugh as I was drinking, and spit everywhere. Poppy Wyatt had a bad day. She lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill, and as she’s panicking about getting it back, her phone is stolen. When she notices a phone in a trash can, she figures “finders keepers”: at least this way she can leave the hotel with a number to contact when they find the ring. But the owner of that phone, Sam Roxton, wants it back! He also doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and becoming involved in his personal life. Sam and Poppy spend the next few days communicating via email and text, and trying to get things sorted out as Poppy also tries to prepare for her wedding, and hide her now ringless finger from her fiancé and his family.

4. Nuclear Family: A Tragicomic Novel in Letters by Susanna Fogel– Despite the subtitle, I’d actually call this a straight out “comic” novel in letters. The letters in question are sent to out heroine, Julie, over the course of three decades. They come from her father, a former child prodigy turned haiku poet; her stepmother, who attempts to help Julie find a husband; her mother, who overshares EVERYTHING; her free spirited sister; and assorted other family members. Julie also gets the odd missive from other things present in her life, such as her Nordic Track, a container of hummus at her grandmother’s deathbed, her boyfriend’s dog, and the gerbil she accidentally drowned when she was 10. Despite the fact that we come to know these characters over the course of three decades, this novel is pretty short, and the epistolary format means you can dip into it for a few minutes or read it straight through. However you choose to read it, chances are, you’ll laugh.

5. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite– This is a pretty dark comedy, but my sense of humor can sometimes be weird, so it made me laugh.  The book opens with Korede, a nurse, getting a call from her sister, Ayoola. Ayoola is frantic, saying her boyfriend attacked her, and she killed him in self defense. Now she needs Korede to help her dispose of the body. Korede wants to believe her sister’s story, but it’s hard: this is the third boyfriend that Ayoola has killed in “self-defense.” Somehow Korede is always the one to drag out the bleach and rubber gloves, clean up her sister’s messes, and get rid of the bodies. Pretty soon, Ayoola has her eyes on another guy, and this time it’s someone Korede knows and cares about. How can she warn him of the danger her sister presents without exposing them both? This book has a wonderful contemporary Nigerian setting. It’s a quick read that packs a satirical punch.

6. At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald– Set at a children’s theatrical school in London in the early 1960s, “Freddie’s” is run by a woman who keeps her school running in spite of a complete lack of income. Over the course of a few months, the star pupil lands (and may lose) an important role, the most talented student gets some new opportunities, the school’s only two teachers flirt with romance and one another, and Freddie fends off the financial wolves. Nothing earth shattering happens in this slim novel, but we’re given an appreciation for the love these characters have for the school and the theater, so we’re invested in what happens to them. I’d describe the tone of the novel as “tragicomic”. It’s definitely witty and makes you chuckle. But some of the characters have an earnestness that pulls at the heartstrings too.

7. Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman– This novel is told via letters, notes passed in class, interoffice memos, and scraps of paper taken from lockers, notebooks and trashcans. It was written in 1964 about a 1st year teacher in a NYC high school and what’s remarkable is how much (and how little!) has changed since then. Anyone who thinks that having summers off makes teaching an easy job needs to read this. Read it to appreciate the teachers in your life a bit more. Or just read it because it’s a fun (and funny) book.

8. Going Bovine by Libba Bray: Full disclosure: I bought this book almost solely on the basis of this interview. with the author. The book is more or less exactly what you’d expect from that. Our protagonist, Cameron, is a teen slacker, who just wants to get through high school with as little effort as humanly possible. When he learns that he’s dying of mad cow disease, he’s understandably depressed. When he learns from a possible hallucination/possibly real punk angel named Dulcie that there’s a cure, he goes off on a quest for it. His companion is a death obsessed video gaming dwarf and yard gnome (who may also be a Norse god) It’s sort of Don Quixote meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s totally weird and bizarre, but so am I, so it works!

9. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell– I read this book because I’m a fan of the TV series The Durrells in Corfu, which is based on Gerald Durrell’s Corfu trilogy, of which this is the first book. Gerald Durrell was a British naturalist and conservationist. At the age of 10, in the 1930s, his widowed mother moved him and his siblings (who include famous writer Lawrence Durrell) to the Greek island of Corfu to live. According to the author, this book was initially intended as a natural history of the island. But his family dominated every page. From their mishaps and experiences, to eccentric family friends to young Gerald’s endless procession of animals (including, but not limited to puppies, toads, scorpions, geckos, octopuses, bats and butterflies) this is a family you’re unlikely to forget.

10. Texts From Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations With Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg– This book imagines text conversations with literary characters. So it’s pretty much what you’d expect: Scarlett O’Hara (Gone With the Wind) uses her unlimited data plan to constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie. Mr. Rochester sends Jane Eyre ardent, all caps texts. Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby) texts while driving, and asks you to pick her up after she wrecks the car. You’ll also see some texts from Emily Dickinson, Peeta and Katniss (The Hunger Games), Edgar Allen Poe, and many more.

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of Magical Realism

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

August 29: Ten Hidden Gem Books in X Genre: Pick a genre and share with us some books that have gone under the radar in that genre!

For this one I decided to go with Magical Realism. It’s a weird genre that, by it’s very name, contradicts itself. Magic in these books is presented alongside the every day things we all know. It’s not really “explained”, we just go with it For those unfamiliar with it, some of the better known titles in this genre include One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The House of the Spirits by Isabella Allende, The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Authors such as John Luis Borges, Alice Hoffman, Toni Morrison, Laura Esquival, Haruki Murakami, and Junot Diaz are all known for using this to different degrees. I chose some lesser known works that qualify as “hidden gems”. Some of these veer pretty far into the “magical” side of the genre, while others are more firmly grounded in the real.

41ay0z5uell-_ac_us218_1. There’s No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahearn-  Twenty years ago, Sandy Shortt’s classmate disappeared. Since then  she’s been obsessed with missing things. So much so that finding missing people becomes her life’s work. Jack Ruttle hires Sandy to find his brother, Donal, who vanish a year ago. But while she’s working on the case something strange happens. She stumbles on a place where missing things- and people- end up. Those socks that she thought the dryer ate? The teddy bear she lost as a kid? And all the missing people that Sandy’s struggled to find over the years. But now Sandy is struggling to find a way to get back where she belongs. Ahearn is an Irish writer who has some lovely work in this genre. I also recommend If  You Could See Me Now, Thanks for the Memories, and The Book of Tomorrow.

“It’s difficult to know which second among a lifetime of seconds is more special. Often when you realise how precious those seconds are, it’s too late for them to be captured because the moment has passed. We realise too late.”

51j1v5z8h0l-_ac_us218_2. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter- Carter is one of my all time favorites. Her writing is beautiful. In this book, Jack Walser, a turn of the century American journalist, interviews and investigates Sophie Fevvers. Sophie is a circus performer who is said to be part woman and part swan. Jack wants to find out if she’s legit, and so he joins the circus, following it through Europe and getting bizarre, fantastic story of Sophie’s life. The characters are larger than life, but so is the circus, so it all fits.

“She sleeps. And now she wakes each day a little less. And, each day, takes less and less nourishment, as if grudging the least moment of wakefulness, for, from the movement under her eyelids, and the somnolent gestures of her hands and feet, it seems as if her dreams grow more urgent and intense, as if the life she lives in the closed world of dreams is now about to possess her utterly, as if her small, increasingly reluctant wakenings were an interpretation of some more vital existence, so she is loath to spend even those necessary moments of wakefulness with us, wakings strange as her sleepings. Her marvellous fate – a sleep more lifelike than the living, a dream which consumes the world.
‘And, sir,’ concluded Fevvers, in a voice that now took on the sombre, majestic tones of a great organ, ‘we do believe . . . her dream will be the coming century.
‘And, oh, God . . . how frequently she weeps!”

51371fbdool-_ac_us218_3. Forever by Pete Hamill- In 1741, Cormac O’Connor seeks to avenge the death of his father. So he follows the murderer from Ireland to New York City. On board the ship, Cormac meets Kongo, an African slave. He saves Kongo, and gets shot himself in the process. Kongo’s priestess, grants Cormac eternal life, and eternal youth, in return; but only if he never leaves the island of Manhattan.  We follow Cormac for over two hundred years, as he becomes involved in the American Revolution, hangs out with Boss Tweed, witnesses epidemics, and watches as the city grows and changes; and sees all it’s beauty and ugliness co-existing. Once we’ve accepted the magic that grants Cormac eternal life, the book is more historical, though hints of fantasy pop in here and there. It’s a bittersweet story, because Cormac sees the world as few experience it, but he also remains outside of it- confined to a tiny island, forever young, watching those he cares about as they age and die. Hamill also wrote Snow in August, another magical realist novel that is set in historical NYC, though this one veers more into the fantasy genre toward the end.

“I don’t know what that means. To truly live.”
“To find work that you love, and work harder than other men. To learn the languages of the earth, and love the sounds of the words and the things they describe. To love food and music and drink. Fully love them. To love weather, and storms, and the smell of rain. To love heat. To love cold. To love sleep and dreams. To love the newness of each day.”

51dvjy072kl-_ac_us218_4. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen- Josey Cirrini lives an uneventful life. Her guilty pleasures involve romance novels and sweets, which she eats in her closet. She lives in the North Carolina town of Bald Slope with her widowed mother. One day, while in her closet having a sugar fix, Josey finds that it’s already occupied by Della Lee, a local waitress who is taking refuge after a fight with her boyfriend. Della refuses to leave, and threatens to tell Josey’s fussy, high society mother about  her secret closet candy binges if Joesy doesn’t let her stay. So Josey finds herself doing Della’s bidding. She befriends Chloe, a woman who finds that books seem to appear whenever she might need them, and Adam, the mailman that Josey’s been crushing on for years.  At first it’s hard to understand Josey’s slave-like commitment to her mother, or how Della could manage to stay in a closet as a long term arrangement. But the pieces of the puzzle come together eventually. Allen’s other work in the genre is also very much worth reading. Garden Spells is her best known (so much so that I don’t know if it qualifies as a “hidden gem” for the purposes of this list), First Frost, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper and Lost Lake. In the wrong mood these might come off as saccharine but in the right mood they’re just the right sweet treat.

“She bought a plume of blue cotton candy before they left the food booths, and she picked at it while they headed down the row of booths occupied by residents of Bald Slope who had spent all summer making walnut salad bowls and jars of pickled watermelon rind to sell at the festival. Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats. It was magical, this snowglobe world.”

61eh6n0ejfl-_ac_us218_5. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff– Lauren Groff is better known for literary fiction (Fates and Furies, Arcadia) so I was surprised by this venture. Wilhelmina “Willie” Upton is close to completing her PhD in archaeology when she returns to her upstate New York home town of Templeton, after the conclusion of a disastrous affair with her adviser. That same day, a dead Loch Ness monster type creature is found in the lake. Willie discovers that her mother, a hippie, has found Jesus. She confesses to Wille that she isn’t the product of a commune orgy (which is what she original told her daughter) but is the daughter of one of the men in town, who is descended from the town’s founder. With that little information to go on, Willie begins to investigate, and she discovers that Templeton is the home to many monsters. The creature in the lake was one kind, but others are in the form of secrets kept by the townspeople. And some of these monsters are actually beautiful.

“Then, when we had done so, we put our hands upon the freezing cold monster, our monster. And this is what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping in sweet sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.”

51ucuhb38pl-_ac_us218_6. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson- Full disclosure: I almost stopped reading this book after the first chapter, because in it, the main character is in a near fatal car accident. We’re treated to graphic descriptions of his injuries and medical treatment, to the point where I wanted to put down the book (and never get into a car again).  I kept reading because reviews urged readers to push through those first few chapters, and I’m glad I did. After our unnamed narrator, a porn star by trade, is in his accident, he spends his days  in the burn unit, planning his suicide. One day, in walks Marianne Engel, sculptress of “the grotesque”, who may be mentally ill or divinely inspired. She tells the Burned Man that they’ve known each other in a past life, and he humors her and listens to their elaborate love love story unfolding over several hundred years. We can attribute Marianne’s long outrageous tale to mental illness, and the Burned Man’s eventual belief in it to his morphine addiction following his accident. Or we can take the plunge and go through this story with a sense of magic.

“This will mark the third time that an arrow has entered my chest. The first time brought me to Marianne Engel. The second time separated us.

The third time will reunite us.”

51j0fpre5nl-_ac_us218_7. Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock- Griffin is a London based artist. One day he gets a note from a South Pacific artist named Sabine Strohem. She congratulates him on his recent work and mentions a change that he made in the creative process. Griffin never told anyone about that, but Sabine claims to “share his sight”. She may have a telepathic connection to Griffin. Or she may be completely imaginary.  We read the letters that they exchange. In fact, the book is made up of removable letters, postcards and artwork. You know the temptation to go through someone else’s things, and read their mail? This is a perfect way to indulge that. We get to know these characters through their art & handwriting, as well as the content of their letters. It’s a tactile, sensory, literary experience. It’s follow by two direct sequels; Sabine’s Notebook, and The Golden Mean.  There’s a secondary trilogy with a new set of lovers with a mysterious connection to Griffin and Sabine. That’s made up of The Gryphon, Alexandria, and The Morning Star. The Pharos Gate brings the story to a final conclusion.

“Our house was a temple to The Book. We owned thousands, nay millions of books. They lined the walls, filled the cupboards, and turned the floor into a maze far more complex than Hampton Court’s. Books ruled out lives. They were our demi-gods.”

61e3dwvmj7l-_ac_us218_8. The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes- A mysterious spirit arrives at 66 Star Street in Dublin. It makes itself at home and watches the lives of the residents unfold as it counts down to…something.  The building is home to Katie, a 40 year old PR worker with a commitment phobic boyfriend. It’s also the home of newlyweds Meave and Matt, who are bound together by a secret that may eventually drive them apart. Then there’s Jemima, an elderly psychic who lives in the building. Her son, Fionn, is staying with her temporarily as he auditions for TV shows. The spirit sneaks around the building, learning all it can about the residents and unknowlingly brings their lives together in unexpected ways.

“A cynical type might suggest that it was all a little too perfect. But a cynical type would be wrong.”

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_19. Night Film by Marisha Pessl- Ashley Cordova, 24 year old daughter of acclaimed horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned building in New York City.  Journalist Scott McGrath once tried to do a story on the reclusive Cordova. That attempt cost him his job and his marriage. Yet he can’t help but be intrigued by Ashely’s death. Why is her life, and her father’s, so shrouded in mystery? Cordova lives on a vast estate known as The Peak, where all his films are shot. He no longer leaves the compound. Why? As Scott investigates he comes across several explanations for Cordova’s reclusiveness and Ashley’s death.  These range from black magic to human failure. But as his investigations draw Scott closer to the legendary filmmaker, his life begins to resemble a dark, disturbing, Codrova film. This book plays with the edge between reality and fantasy. The supernatural explanations for Ashley’s fate are given just as much (sometimes more) credibility as the more realistic ones. This isn’t a book to read if you expect every i dotted and every t crossed. But if you’re up for a weird trip, this one is a great ride.

“Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out?”

41d4ws5ecl-_ac_us218_10. Going Bovine by Libba Bray- Cameron Smith is a pretty average high school junior until he gets some bad news: he has Creutzfeldt-Jacob aka “mad cow” disease and he’s going to die soon.  When he gets a – possibly hallucinatory – visit from Dulcie, a guardian angel with a major sugar addiction, he gets a flash of hope. According to Dulcie, a cure exists, if he’s willing to look for it. With the help of Gonzo, a hypochondriac, video gaming dwarf, he goes off in search of it. The two embark on a crazy road trip through the side of America that most people never get to see. This is a bizarre, trippy take on Don Quixote. Cameron may be crazy, he may be brilliant, he may be dying, and he may be attacking windmills. Gonzo makes for a Sancho Panza who carries around a yard gnome that is possibly also a Norse god. Dulcie is of course the punk rock, angelic Dulcinea. It’s trippy, it’s funny, and if you just go with it, it’s occasionally brilliant.

“As a kid, I imagined lots of different scenarios for my life. I would be an astronaut. Maybe a cartoonist. A famous explorer or rock star. Never once did I see myself standing under the window of a house belonging to some druggie named Carbine, waiting for his yard gnome to steal his stash so I could get a cab back to a cheap motel where my friend, a neurotic, death-obsessed dwarf, was waiting for me so we could get on the road to an undefined place and a mysterious Dr. X, who would cure me of mad cow disease and stop a band of dark energy from destroying the universe.”